When Dry Dock Brewing filled its one millionth can of beer on June 19 -- an Apricot Blonde -- just six months after the company began canning its brews, the moment brought a little sense of pride to the staff of Wild Goose Canning Technologies.
The Boulder engineering company had supplied the machine - one of four canning lines it manufactures -- to Dry Dock and trained the staff on how to use it.
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But this kind of business has become standard for Wild Goose, which had specialized in making boat and airplane parts until 2011, when it got an unusual request from its neighbor in a Boulder business park, a little start-up called Upslope Brewing.
Upslope was planning to can its beer, but it wanted to see if it could find a local company to build a custom line right there in Boulder, for a little less money.
"We needed space to have meetings, which they had, and they needed stuff built. And they had beer, which helped," says Wild Goose spokesman Roger Walz about how the two businesses first got to know each other. "That first system we made for them had boat parts in it. We called it a 'Frankenline.' But it's still in operation out there."
Upslope has since upgraded its machines -- having sold the original one to Jackie O's Pub and Brewery in Athens, Ohio -- and built a second Boulder brewery.
And Wild Goose no longer builds Frankenlines on the side. Beer-canning systems have become the company's fulltime business, one that has allowed it to expand, hire more employees and compete with Cask, the Canadian market leader in the industry.
In addition to Upslope and Dry Dock, Wild Goose has sold machines to Breckenridge Brewery, Eddyline and Aspen Brewing. It will also supply Sanitas Brewing, which will soon open in Boulder, and Caution Brewing, which will begin canning this fall.
It has created systems for numerous out-of-state breweries, including Hopworks Urban Brewery and Widmer Brothers, both in Portland, Oregon; Lazy Monk in Wisconsin; Lost Rhino in Virginia; NOLA Brewing in New Orleans and Tampa Bay Brewing. It has sold machines to breweries in Australia, Great Britain and Canada, as well.
And the company is even doing business with Longmont's Mobile Canning, which could be considered its competitor since Mobile Canning provides canning services for breweries that want to package their beers without buying their own equipment.
"It works out fine," Walz says, adding that Wild Goose has an agreement with Mobile Canning to provide its machines as well as those of its affiliates in other states.
As more and more breweries begin canning their beer, Wild Goose believes it will able to grow even faster. There are currently at least 300 craft breweries canning more than 1,000 different beers in the United States, according to craftcans.com, which follows the industry closely. Nearly forty of those breweries are in Colorado.
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